Through a notification dated 14th January, 2016 the FSSAI has operationalized the Food Safety and Standards (Food Import) Regulations, 2016 with immediate effect.
Mentioned below are some of the highlights of the regulations.
Food importing FBOs will need to fulfil the following requirements for food imports and obtain
- an import licence from the Central Licensing Authority according to the Food Safety and Standards (Licensing and Registration of Food Businesses) Regulations, 2011
- a valid Import-Export Code which is granted when the FBO registers with the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT).
Besides allocating import licences the FSSAI can also cancel or suspend licences if the food importer does not comply with the conditions of the license and if the DO/AO and any other authorised officer finds that the importer has attempted to import
- unsafe food
- prohibited food or food from prohibited sources, directly or indirectly, including re-channelling, re-packing etc.
In case of suspension, revocation or cancellation of the license it is the duty of the FBO to inform the Central Licensing Authority and the Authorized Officer about this within 24 hours and not later than 3 working days. In these circumstances the FSSAI central import license will stand automatically cancelled. Fresh license can be granted on reapplication.
When importing food the FBO must ensure the imported food is in compliance with regulations including the standards for packaging and Labelling regulations.
- The food needed to be transported, stored in optimal storage conditions keeping in mind hygiene and temperature.
- Food must be packaged and labelled as per the regulations applicable for that particular food
- They must be packed in containers that makes it easy to collect samples from the consignment
- No food article shall be allowed to be cleared from the custom unless it has 60% shelf life at the time of its clearance from the customs
- On those foods imports that have labels in compliance, clearance will be given only when the samples pass food analysis. These samples for testing need to be drawn from the consignment in the Customs Area, in the presence of Food Importer or his CHA
- If on visual inspection there is non-compliance on labelling and packaging regulations then no samples for testing shall be drawn from the consignment.
However, there are certain instances when the importer/ CHA can rectify labels by affixing a non-detachable sticker next to the principle display upon arrival of imported food consignments in the custom bonded warehouse. This label rectification can be carried out when the following information on the package is missing only
(a) Name and address of the importer
(b) FSSAI Logo and License Number, Non-Veg/Veg Logo
If the labelling compliance is rectifiable the AO will prescribe time for labelling rectification and if that is not adhered to or there is any altering and masking in the original labelling then too the food will not get clearance.
Clearance is not required for imported foods when
- food is exported as per present Government instructions and for export rejected/re-imported food meant for re-export
- the food articles/ ingredients/ additives are imported for their captive use/ production of value added products for 100% exports; and/ or the consignments of food items/ ingredients/ additives imported by the firms/ companies for use of their sister concerns/ wholly owned subsidiary companies, to be used for 100% export production provided the importer has given an undertaking to the Customs department about these issues
- food is imported for Diplomatic Missions then these imports will be cleared according to Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, 1963 (Article 50 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, 1963).
- Food is imported for the purpose of Research and Development provided that it is imported by a licensed Food Importer and on providing an undertaking that the food importer and food importing agency will use this only for the purpose of research and development and that it will not be released into the domestic market or used for test marketing or market research purposes.
- Foods imported for exhibitions and tasting will be cleared only when the exhibitor furnishes the declaration as per Schedule 8.
- In case the food is proposed to be used for ‘tasting’ purposes, the importing exhibitor/entity shall also submit a copy of the food safety certificate issued by the Food Regulatory Authority of the country of origin
- Prohibited food products, included in the list of the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) or specified by the Authority from time to time, will not be allowed to be imported for exhibition and/or tasting purposes
- All products for the exhibition will carry an additional non-detachable label/ sticker stating: “For Exhibition purpose only” and “Not for sale”. In case this information is missing then the importing entity may be permitted to affix such additional label in the custom-bonded warehouse.
- A placard must be prominently displayed at the place of exhibition of such food items stating ‘For Tasting Only’.
- The portion of the food products which have been opened for tasting and are not consumed at the place of the exhibition need to be destroyed after the exhibition by the Food Importer as per prescribed procedure. The unopened and unconsumed food product shall be re-exported in securely packed condition under intimation to the Authorized Officer by the Food Importer.
- The importing exhibitor has to maintain the Bills of Material
- of the items imported for exhibition,
- the items consumed for tasting purposes or destroyed, AND
- the items for re-export to the country of origin at the end of the exhibition/fair/event and shall be liable to submit such details on demand by the Authorized Officer.
- If food is imported by a foreign country for international sports events for consumption of their sportspersons then export will be allowed. The quantity of the food must not exceed the requirements of captive use/ consumption of the concerned sportspersons for the duration of their stay or event whichever is earlier. The balanced unconsumed food will be re-exported to the country of origin by the authorized member of the delegation under intimation to the Authorized Officer. The importer in this case will also submit a declaration for clearance of imported food consignment.
- In case food is received from other countries during any disaster or emergency situations then the quality/safety of this imported food must be accompanied by a Safety Certificates which needs to be issued by the competent authority of the donor country/agency through inspection.
In case of non-compliance or violation of these above mentioned conditions where clearance is not required for imported foods then in such cases the food Importer/any person or entity concerned shall be debarred from any concessions/ facilities in future. This will be in addition to the consequences that are provisioned in the FSS Act and the rules and regulations.
Non-of the imported food articles can come into contact with other food articles in the warehouse. In case the imported food needs special storage conditions then the AO will first verify the availability of such conditions in the Custom warehouses and in case it is not available then the AO could give permission to move consignment to a well –equipped storage facility on undertaking from the importer.
All imported food article must be stored strictly in accordance with the prescribed storage conditions in the custom warehouse before clearance, failing which, the concerned Authorized Officer may refuse to grant NOC for import clearance of the food consignment.
Other important items in the regulations
The new Food Import regulations have also outlined in detail the requirement of how sampling has to be carried out and the role of the food analyst and the procedure to be followed by notified referral laboratory for testing of the samples.
The import regulations also specify the scheme they have for risk based food imports and the prohibitions on food imports. The regulations clearly define the way rejected food consignments and food samples have to be disposed and how un-cleared and unclaimed food will be dealt with.